Microsoft Dynamics Rides the IoT Wave

Microsoft on Monday made its Dynamics CRM Spring 2016 Wave generally available to customers.

The application focuses heavily on machine learning and the Internet of Things.

It offers field service and project service automation capabilities, as well as four preconfigured Web portal solutions for customers:

  • Customer Portal, which offers self-service knowledge and other support resources;
  • Community Portal, which facilitates peer-to-peer support and deeper ties between internal and external community experts and helps expand an organization’s knowledge base;
  • Employee Portal, which provides access to enterprise knowledge for common domains such as IT and HR and streamlines common tasks such as facilities requests; and
  • Partner Portal, which lets businesses manage leads, opportunities and communications through established processes to scale through their channel.

The portal solutions can be used on any desktop, tablet or mobile device, Microsoft said.

The Spring 2016 Wave also introduced Learning Path, guided navigation capabilities that walk users through the steps needed to complete a task in an application. The capabilities provide context-sensitive interactive and scenario-based tasks and sidebars personalized to the user.

Pushing Machine Learning Capabilities

New machine learning scenarios in Microsoft Social Engagement include adaptive learning and automated social triage.

Adaptive learning determines how people on social media perceive a product, campaign or brand. Sentiment scoring models help the system more accurately understand the language customers use — such as what snowboard buyers mean when they call a product “crazy.”

Automated social triage detects intention in social posts and routes them appropriately, distinguishing potential buyers from customers with complaints, for instance.

“Microsoft is the only CRM application in the market that provides embedded machine learning scenarios out of the box,” noted Param Kahlon, general manager of program management at Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

The company will host an online event called “Customer Driven” at 9 a.m. PDT June 7, at which the Spring 2016 Wave will be discussed.

Field and Project Service Features

The Spring 2016 Wave’s field and project service automation capabilities were designed to let user organizations schedule, manage and deliver onsite service. They share a resource pool, and scheduled shared resources are indicated in each application.

Field service matches proficiency and competency requirements for service calls against available resources so there’s one process for resource allocation and workload balancing from case management through to work order completion.

Project service automation provides a single system of customer engagement for project sales, delivery and billing. It also supports back-office integrations to productivity and business applications and offers a mobile experience for customer-facing resources.

Microsoft on Tuesday also announced Connected Field Service, which continuously monitors IoT-enabled devices and detects anomalies, generating alerts that trigger automated actions or service tickets and workflow based on service-level agreements.

Field service “is one of those edge apps lying outside the CRM core pillars of sales, marketing and service automation — where customers are now looking to get additional value, and the edge app market is a competitive and interesting one,” said Rebecca Wettemann, research VP at Nucleus Research.

The availability and proximity of service technicians with the right skills and tools are matched against the service requirement and routed to customer locations to take preventive action.

“Digital transformation is synonymous with customer experience in that it’s truly intelligent customer engagement,” said Natalie Petouhoff, principal analyst atConstellation Research.

“Companies must empower their sales, service and marketing employees while harnessing the power of big data, advanced analytics and IoT technologies to create differentiated customer experiences,” she told CRM Buyer.

Tomorrow’s Tech Today

“An important part of this story, particularly with the field service piece, is what Microsoft can do and is doing with customers today around IoT,” Wettemann told CRM Buyer.

IoT is playing an increasingly important role in CRM, and Salesforce in Septemberunveiled its IoT Cloud.

Overall, the Dynamics CRM Spring 2016 Wave “goes beyond just the Microsoft CRM and field service story to show the reality of what Azure and other Microsoft technologies bring to the overall value of the business app portfolio,” Wettemann said. Nucleus also has seen “significant ROI for Dynamics customers taking advantage of the portal and customer self-service technologies.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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